Review: United Boeing 757 'BusinessFirst': Los Angeles-New York/Newark

Overall Rating

By Chris C., November 25 2015
United Boeing 757 'BusinessFirst': Los Angeles-New York/Newark

Los Angeles - New York (Newark)

Aircraft Type

Boeing 757-200


United Airlines



Cabin Class




The Good
  • Three course lunch with wine
  • On-demand inflight entertainment
The Bad
  • Cabin crew not overly welcoming
  • Some drinks served in disposable cups
  • Fully-flat beds on a domestic flight


Catering for passengers with work, rest or play in mind, United Airlines' Boeing 757 'BusinessFirst' business class service treats transcontinental travellers to fully-flat beds, inflight WiFi and on-demand inflight entertainment.

Easily mirroring an international service and with similar seats to United's Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Australian Business Traveller takes to the skies on this p.s. Premium Service flight from Los Angeles to New York Area's Newark Liberty Airport to bring you this review.


  • Frequent flyer program: United MileagePlus (Star Alliance). Virgin Australia Velocity points can also be earned indirectly via the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer scheme.
  • Priority check-in: Look for 'Premier Access' on the far left of the Terminal 7 check-in hall. Passengers connecting from Sydney or Melbourne with an onward boarding pass can proceed straight to security.
  • Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg bags. One extra 32kg bag allowed for United Premier Gold (and above) and Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers.
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x113cm bag with no specific weight limit, plus a personal item like a laptop bag or handbag and smaller goods including umbrellas and duty-free purchases.
  • Priority security screening: Yes, adjacent to the Premier Access desks. TSA PreCheck lanes are also available in the economy section for registered US travellers.
  • Priority boarding privileges: Yes, with Group 1 after Global Services members, military, disabled passengers and families with children have boarded.

Unlike United's international flights from Australia, flights departing Los Angeles are eligible for mobile check-in via the United smartphone app: so if you're travelling without checked bags, use the app on your way to the airport and then fly straight through security.

The app also generates a 3D barcode that can be used in lieu of a paper boarding pass, but we still grabbed a printed copy to keep with our jacket – making it easier for the crew when returning it prior to landing.


Passengers in BusinessFirst on United's transcontinental p.s. Premium Service flights can choose between two United Clubs in LA – a small lounge in the space previously occupied by United's Global First Lounge, and a larger Club near gate 71A:

Both lounges provide speedy Internet, a selection of food and beverage and charging points for your gadgets, although sadly lack showers for international travellers.


United's Boeing 757s with BusinessFirst feature a single aisle and seats in a 2-2 layout...

... stretching to 193cm when fully-flat and in bed mode, and 53cm at the widest point:

Extending the bed also reveals an adjustable reading light and shortcut keys – handy for bringing the seat forward for meals or when standing:

You'll find the main controls and pre-sets for 'upright' and 'fully-flat' aside a shared cocktail table...

... next to which there's also a small privacy divider small enough to cater for couples chatting but large enough to obscure your face when sleeping...

... and which leads up to a storage shelf with a small literature pocket, international AC and USB outlets and the seat's headphone connection port.

It's a great place to plonk your phone or tablet while charging, although you'll need to twist around to do so as the shelf sits 'behind' your seat.


A beverage service is provided before take-off, although with drinks served in plastic and cardboard cups...

... progressing to a pre-lunch drink once airborne poured in a real glass, and warmed nuts after a well-timed round of hot towels.

A fresh salad begins the meal with balsamic dressing on the side, bread and a choice of red/white/sparkling wine, beer or spirit-based drinks.

For mains was choice between a chicken and rice dish (selected), salmon or a vegetarian paneer option. The chicken proved spicy and was cooked well without being tough or rubbery.

Concluding the main was a light mango gelato...

... with warm cookies also offered before landing.

Entertainment & Service

As you'd expect of a premium cross-country flight, each guest in BusinessFirst has their own 16-inch touchscreen...

... loaded with hundreds of movies, TV shows, music tracks and a range of games:

We found the entertainment selection almost identical to that offered on United's Boeing 787 from Melbourne to Los Angeles, so if you're part way through one movie as you arrive in the States, you can pick-up where you left off as you continue your journey.

Cabin crew on today's flight were indeed professional but weren't overly welcoming in their service, making their first interaction with passengers a walk through the cabin while repeating "Jackets or coats?" at nobody in particular.

A press of the call bell was also answered by a flight attendant leaning forward and raising their eyebrows while remaining silent, which feels a little awkward.

However, the same crew 'warmed-up' around the time the main course arrived, and initiated discussions about wine pairing and which was their (and my) favourite – a nice second-take on a relatively mediocre first impression, without straying the conversation beyond the journey itself.

This particular Boeing 757 was also fitted with inflight Internet: offering unlimited data for US$15.99 (A$22.60) while the aircraft was cruising, but which didn't work at all until the crew performed a 'hard reset' on the system around 1.5 hours into the flight.

For casual users, that's quite expensive – particularly without a pro-rata discount for the connectivity time lost by the fault – but for business travellers staying connected with the office during the business day and putting their feet up after they land, it's more than fair.

Visiting New York City on business? Also read:

Chris Chamberlin travelled to New York as a guest of United Airlines.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Dec 2012

Total posts 38

I feel like UA's upped their game on the transcon after DL and AA have both done recent extensive upgrades; still lagging but maybe not quite as much now? In UA's defense though, all USA carriers serve pre-departure drinks in plastic cups, even when flying international. Though some claim it's not an FAA requirement, it does seem they strongly suggest it, and should the airline use glassware, the added hassle to departure and the potential FAA violation they would be in if they miss any left out is huge. If you Google it, there are some threads from Flyertalk and others discussing this, from way back even pre 9/11. It's like the mesh curtains separating cabins on US carriers. Ugly but, not really the airline's fault..

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

Hi Newbie7, re: plastic cups, I've been served drinks in glassware prior to take-off on both American and Delta over the past 12 months (Delta on every flight and American when in first class, yet not business class), and while aviation regulations generally prohibit glassware in the cabin during take-off, United's nearest competitors and indeed other airlines across the globe (including in Australia) manage to collect glasses before the planes hit the runway.


Are prices cheaper than AA's transcon service?

AA's service on this sector (well not quite...but same city/target market) seems considerably better.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

TRB: As with any flight, fares vary based on demand and so forth – however, I have seen United business class return fares from Melbourne to New York selling for around $4,000 from time to time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Dec 2012

Total posts 38

Hi Chris, that's good to hear, maybe they're slowly changing. I have to admit I haven't flown DL since 2012, but a few months back when I was on AA YYZ-LAX in the Domestic First/branded Business cabin, even though it wasn't the States the pre-departure drinks were still in plastic cups. I'll be flying in a few hours here SFO-ORD on UA First so I'll let you know how that goes! I also think you're giving UA/AA too much credit to be comparing them to 'other airlines across the globe' but is that just me?? Haha!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 700

I've been on the PS flights between the east and west coasts several times in both cabins but I must say despite the fact that UA put in some new seats these aircraft are still so old. These aircraft are soon approaching their 20's and its really showing.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 700


The worst 757-200 is 26 years old with the best 15.4 years old

An average age across the 50 757-200's of 20.6 years old

Ahhh, United. Consistently disappointing.

But they do have the Food Network on their IFE (at least in the domestic US). Which is a great thing.

Admittedly, these seats are the same that Delta have as their "Delta One" transcon product in Delta's 757s (the 767s have Vantage with direct aisle access for everyone). American also use these seats in their transcon A321s as the Business Class product (the First Class product is Zodiac Cirrus).

The in-flight meal looks surprisingly good, at least for United.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Nov 2013

Total posts 29

I'm flying from LAX to JFK at the end of the month with my family. To be honest, I'd love to try business class on one of the airlines on offer, but the prices are just insane. Obviously, I expect to pay more - but around US$2000 one way each for a five-and-a-half hour flight? Seems impossibly to justify when I'm paying out of my own pocket. 

21 Jul 2012

Total posts 128

Check out JetBlue's Mint business class.  It looks good and can be had for $599 each way sometimes.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Nov 2013

Total posts 29

Thanks. Yes, I did have a look at JetBlue because I've heard biz can be had cheap - but for the date I need to fly, they were actually a little more expensive than the alternatives.

But then I'm flying across the country a couple of days after Christmas, so it's hardly surprising I'd be paying full price.

21 Jul 2012

Total posts 128

It's maybe not the best product, but Virgin America's got 50% off their First Class seats between Dec. 18 and Jan. 1:

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